Stichting Fonds Goudse Glazen, Gouda

Jonah strides forth from the gaping mouth of a huge fish in this stained-glass window in St. John’s Church, Gouda, the Netherlands. One of 70 impressive stained-glass works (some more than 60 feet high), the Jonah window was created in about 1560 by Dirck Crabeth at the behest, appropriately, of Gouda’s fishmongers as part of a rebuilding effort. The church had been partially destroyed by lighting in 1552.

The window recounts a portion of the prophet’s story: At upper right, the desperate sailors aboard the storm-tossed ship heave Jonah overboard, practically into the jaws of the waiting whale. The skyline of a contemporary Dutch city rises at upper left, recalling the great city of Nineveh, to which Jonah had been ordered. Perhaps the artist wanted to indicate that his city, too, was in need of repentance. The banner at lower right reads, in Latin: “Behold something greater than Jonah is here.”

Though taking up only three verses in one of the shorter books of the Hebrew Bible, the episode of Jonah and the great fish has inspired countless works in a variety of media, as attested by the illustrations on the pages that follow.